Season Review: DePaul Blue Demons

Elsa

With a new-look Blue Demon program looking to turn the tide, and the AD's vote of confidence in coach Oliver Purnell, let's take a look back on the ups and down's of the 2013-14 DePaul Blue Demons.

DePaul finished in last place in the Big East Conference for the sixth-consecutive season, but while there was an abundance of low's in the 2013-14 season, the Blue Demons took away numerous highs that will enable the program to look forward into head coach Oliver Purnell's 5th (and most crucial) year. With a postseason tournament far out of reach, let's take a look back at DePaul's embattled, yet otherwise disappointing 2013-14 campaign.

The Season

Expectations continue to get lower and lower for the DePaul program after a sixth straight last place finish in the Big East, now condensed to 10 teams. The Blue Demons picked up impressive non-conference wins at tournament Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Northwestern, along with a home victory over Oregon State. DePaul finished 7-5 against non-conference opponents, including losses against Wichita State, Texas and Arizona State.

Seniors Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin were DePaul's leading scorers in the first half of the year, averaging more than 15 a game, while the influx of freshman Billy Garrett Jr., Tommy Hamilton and R.J. Curington began to help direct the Purnell era in its desired direction. Garrett would shine in his first season with the program, earning the Big East Rookie of the Year award after leading all Big East freshmen in scoring, assists and free-throw percentage throughout the season. Hamilton would join Garrett on the league's All-Rookie team. In 26 starts, Hamilton opened some eyes with a good outside game to go with his ability to handle his own down low, something experts were uncertain he would be able to do coming out of college.

DePaul followed up two early conference losses with their first Big East winning streak in six years - a double-overtime thriller at Butler and a home win over St. John's. Reality would quickly set in for the Demons when they lost 10 straight, only twice losing by less than 10 points. The program suspended  Melvin for four games in the middle of the conference season before announcing the star forward would be leaving the university. Melvin's dismissal left a major hole in DePaul's starting rotation, forcing Oliver Purnell to play small ball and rely on a smaller lineup for the remainder of the year. Brandon Young would embrace the #1 role in Melvin's absence, finishing the season averaging 16 points per game and anchoring a depleted DePaul program missing its star, and for a few games, its top rookie, as Garrett took some time off due to his sickle cell trait. The Demons would end the regular season with a huge home win over Seton Hall to snap their 10-game skid before losing their final two. Purnell's stay for a fifth season was solidified with a win over Georgetown in the opening round of the Big East tournament, their first Big East tourney win since 2009.

Player Grades
Cleveland Melvin Incomplete Melvin only played 20 games in a DePaul uniform before leaving the program in the middle of Big East play. The forward still leads the team in points and rebounds per game this season, and is now getting a look in the NBA Development League with the Erie Bayhawks before entering this year's NBA Draft.
Brandon Young B+ Young was thrusted into the #1 role halfway through the conference schedule and held his own, often serving as the Blue Demons best option on a team of young, inexperienced players. Young was the second-leading scorer on the team, and will need a strong spring/summer if he hopes to make an opening day roster in October.
Billy Garrett Jr. B The Big East Rookie of the Year had his ups and downs, but showed glimpses of his potential throughout the season. Garrett will have to work on his game and find a more consistent shot as he assumes the #1 role at DePaul. His ceiling is high, and Purnell hopes this is only seen the beginning of a brilliant career for the young Blue Demon.
Tommy Hamilton C+ The big man gave his high school critics reason to retract their statements this past year, as he showed his growth in the paint as well as a surprisingly good long-range jumper. Hamilton has the size to be a force underneath the basket for DePaul in the Big East, but only if he stays committed to improving.
Durrell McDonald C One of two players to appear in every game, McDonald started seven times this season and was DePaul's fifth-leading scorer at just over five points a game. The sophomore should have a starting spot locked up for 2014-15, and he has the upside to take over Brandon Young's role in the backcourt.
Sandi Marcius C The Purdue transfer showed the inconsistencies that hindered him in Lafayette. Marcius performed adequately on the offensive end, but could never become the low-post option Purnell wanted when he arrived in Lincoln Park.
R.J. Curington C One of the few silver linings of Cleveland Melvin's departure was the emergence of Curington, who played exceptionally well during a period where DePaul were missing two starters in their backcourt. Curington will continue to get a look in his sophomore campaign.
Jamee Crockett D Crockett had a rough junior year, as injuries and suspension, coupled with less playing time, drastically affected his play on the court this season.
Charles McKinney D The junior played well defensively this season, and has pretty good shot selection, but is a turnover machine and will need to cut down on the giveaways if he expects to keep his starting job next season.
Forrest Robinson C The athletic forward played well in a reserve role and will get a few cracks at the starting rotation next fall.
Greg Sequele C- Sequele was as solid as he could be this season, coming up in a few key defensive situations for DePaul. He's another junior that could see an increase in playing time next season.
Peter Ryckbosch D The product of St. Ignatius in Chicago saw limited playing time, mostly seeing mop-up time in blowout losses.
DeJuan Marrero D- Marrero had a few high points this season, but he was mostly relegated to the bench this season.
Edwind McGhee D- McGhee saw a couple starts towards the end of the season, but his senior season was a dud.
Cory Dollins Incomplete Dollins saw action in three games this season, only registering one shot.
Myke Henry DNP Henry sat out this season thanks under NCAA transfer guidelines. Coming over from the University of Illinois, Henry was ranked No. 97 in the country coming out of Chicago Orr High School in the class of 2011. He will have two more years of eligibility and the 6-foot-6 forward seems to be a perfect fit for Purnell's system.
Oliver Purnell C Some may think I am generous giving Purnell a C grade this season, but when you factor in the setbacks DePaul has taken this season, compared with a slight improvement from his first three years, Purnell has earned a higher grade. His program's upset win over Georgetown in the Big East tournament gave DePaul four Big East victories on the season - its most since Purnell took over as head coach. With all eyes watching, Purnell's system must take shape if he wants to stay for a sixth year.
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